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Paper 1: Core Geography

Physical Core

Atmosphere and weather

Flights over northern Europe were disrupted after a cloud of volcanic ash from Icelands Eyjafjallajokull volcano drifting from 6000 to 11000 metres high closed airports and caused ights to be cancelled.

2.1 Local energy budgets

An energy budget refers to the amount of energy entering a system, the amount leaving the system, and the transfer of energy within the system. Energy budgets are commonly considered at a global scale (macro-scale) and at a local scale (micro-scale). However, the term microclimate is sometimes used to describe regional climates, such as those associated with large urban areas, coastal areas and mountainous regions. Figure 2.1 shows a classification of climate and weather phenomena at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Phenomena vary from small-scale turbulence and eddying (such as dust devils) which cover a small area and last for a very short time, to largescale anticyclones (high pressure zones) and jet streams which affect a large area and may last for weeks. The jet stream that carried volcanic dust from underneath the Eyjafjallsjokull glacier in Iceland to northern Europe in 2010 is a good example of jet stream activity (Figure 2.2).
Characteristic timescale

Reykjavik Airspace closed




North Sea

Belfast airport closed 0 km 400


Flights cancelled

Year Month Week Day Hour Jetstreams Anticyclones Hurricanes Local winds Thunderstorms Large cumulus clouds Tornadoes Small cumulus clouds Dust devils Small-scale turbulence Second 10 mm MICRO 1m LOCAL MESO MACRO

Figure 2.2 Jet stream activity and the transfer of dust from Eyjafjallsjokull, Iceland

These different scales should not be considered as separate scales but as a hierarchy of scales in which smaller phenomena may exist within larger ones. For example, the temperature surrounding a building will be affected by the nature of the building and processes that are taking place within the building. However, it will also be affected by the wider synoptic (weather) conditions, which are affected by latitude, altitude, cloud cover and season, for example.


Daytime energy budget

There are six components to the daytime energy budget: incoming solar radiation (insolation) reflected solar radiation surface absorption sensible heat transfer long-wave radiation (Figure 2.3) latent heat (evaporation)

1 km 103 km Characteristic horizontal distance scale

Figure 2.1 Classification of climate and weather phenomena at a variety of spatial and temporal scales



2.1 Local energy budgets

Reected solar radiation Evaporation using energy from the surface

Solar radiation Long-wave radiation

Sensible heat transfer

Grass-covered surface Heat transfer into the soil (surface absorption)

Figure 2.3 Local energy budget daytime

These inuence the gain or loss of energy for a point at the Earths surface. The daytime energy budget assumes a horizontal surface with grass-covered soil. The daytime energy budget can be expressed by the formula: energy available at the surface = incoming solar radiation (reected solar radiation + surface absorption + sensible heat transfer + long-wave radiation + latent heat transfers)

Figure 2.5 Cumulus clouds

Incoming solar radiation

Incoming solar radiation (insolation) is the main energy input and is affected by latitude, season and cloud cover (see pages 0000). Figure 2.4 shows how the amount of insolation received varies with the angle of the Sun and with cloud type. For example, with stratocumulus clouds (like those in Figure 2.5) when the Sun is low in the sky, about 23 per cent of the total radiation transmitted is received at the Earths surface about 250 watts per m2. When the Sun is high in the sky, about 40 per cent is received, just over 450 watts per m2. The less cloud cover there is, and/or the higher the cloud, the more radiation reaches the Earths surface.
Percentage of total radiation transmitted Solar radiation (watts per m3) 80 70 60 600 50 500 40 30 20 10 0
s ulu cum lto A tus s stra irro ocumulu C Strat stratus Thick alto

Reflected solar radiation

The proportion of energy that is reected back to the atmosphere is known as the albedo. The albedo varies with colour light materials are more reective than dark materials (Table 2.1). Grass has an average albedo of 2030 per cent, meaning that it reects back about 2030 per cent of the radiation it receives.
Table 2.1 Selected albedo values Surface Water (Suns angle over 40) Water (Suns angle less than 40) Fresh snow Old snow Dry sand Dark, wet soil Dry concrete Black road surface Grass Deciduous forest Coniferous forest Crops Tundra Albedo (%) 24 680 7590 4070 3545 515 1727 510 2030 1020 515 1525 1520

Clear s



ru Cir

400 300
d stratocum ulus

Section 2.1 Activities

1 The model for the daytime energy budget assumes a at surface with grass-covered soil. Suggest reasons for this assumption. 2 Study Table 2.1. a What is meant by the term albedo? b Why is albedo important?

of stratus an Thick layers ratus Nimbost

200 100 50 25 High Angle of Sun


Figure 2.4 Energy, cloud cover/type and the angle of the Sun


Atmosphere and weather

Surface absorption
Energy that reaches the Earths surface has the potential to heat it. Much depends on the nature of the surface. For example, if the surface can conduct heat to lower layers, the surface will remain cool. If the energy is concentrated at the surface, the surface warms up. (Rock is a poor conductor of heat this is why in hot desert areas, exfoliation may occur as repeated heating and cooling of the rock surface results in stresses at the surface, and eventual peeling or aking see pages 0000.)

Long-wave radiation
During a cloudless night there is a large loss of long-wave radiation from the Earth. There is very little return of long-wave radiation from the atmosphere, due to the lack of clouds. Hence there is a net loss of energy from the surface. In contrast, on a cloudy night the clouds return some long-wave radiation to the surface, hence the overall loss of energy is reduced. Thus in hot desert areas, where there is a lack of cloud cover, the loss of energy at night is maximised. In contrast, in cloudy areas the loss of energy (and change in daytime and night-time temperatures) is less noticeable.

Sensible heat transfer

Sensible heat transfer refers to the movement of parcels of air into and out from the area being studied. For example, air that is warmed by the surface may begin to rise (convection) and be replaced by cooler air. This is known as a convective transfer. It is very common in warm areas in the early afternoon.

Latent heat transfer (condensation)

During the night, water vapour in the air close to the surface can condense to form water, since the air has been cooled by the cold surface. When water condenses, latent heat is released. This affects the cooling process at the surface. In some cases evaporation may occur at night, especially in areas where there are local sources of heat.

Long-wave radiation
Long-wave radiation refers to the radiation of energy from the Earth (a cold body) into the atmosphere and, for some of it, eventually into space. There is, however, a downward movement of long-wave radiation from particles in the atmosphere. The difference between the two ows is known as the net radiation balance. During the day, the outgoing long-wave radiation transfer is greater than the incoming long-wave radiation transfer, so there is a net loss of energy from the surface.

Sub-surface supply
The heat transferred to the soil and bedrock during the day may be released back to the surface at night. This can partly offset the night-time cooling at the surface.

Sensible heat transfer

Cold air moving into an area may reduce temperatures whereas warm air may supply energy and raise temperatures.

Latent heat transfer (evaporation)

When liquid water is turned into water vapour, heat energy is used up. In contrast, when water vapour becomes a liquid, heat is released. Thus when water is present at a surface, a proportion of the energy available will be used to evaporate it, and less energy will be available to raise local energy levels and temperature.

Temperature changes close to the surface

Ground-surface temperatures can vary considerably between day and night. During the day, the ground heats the air by radiation, conduction (contact) and convection. The ground radiates energy and as the air receives more radiation than it emits, the air is warmed. Air close to the ground is also warmed through conduction. Air movement at the surface is slower due to friction with the surface, so there is more time for it to be heated. The combined effect of radiation and conduction is that the air becomes warmer, and rises as a result of convection. At night the ground is cooled as a result of radiation. Heat is transferred from the air to the ground. The air in contact with the ground loses most heat.

Night-time energy budget

The night-time energy budget consists of four components longwave Earth radiation, latent heat transfer (condensation), absorbed energy returned to Earth (sub-surface supply), and sensible heat transfer (Figure 2.6).
Long-wave radiation energy loss Condensation supply of heat as dew forms on surface

Sensible heat transfer

Grass-covered surface Heat supply to surface

Absolute humidity refers to the amount of water in the atmosphere. For example, there may be 8 grams of water in a cubic metre of air. Relative humidity refers to the water vapour present expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount air at that temperature can hold. For example, air at 20 C can hold

Figure 2.6 Night-time energy budget


2.1 Local energy budgets

up to 17.117 g cm-3 of water vapour. If it contains only 8.5585 g cm-3, its relative humidity is 8.5585/17.117 x 100% or 50% relative humidity (RH). Saturated air is air with a relative humidity of 100%. As air temperature rises if there is no increase in water vapour in the air, its relative humidity decreases. For example, air at 5 C may be saturated with as little as 6.8 g of water. As the air is warmed the amount of moisture it can hold increases. However, if none is added to the air, the amount it contains compared with the amount it can hold decreases. Hence, as the air is warmed to 10 C its relative humidity drops to 71%, at 15.5 C its RH drops to 51% and at 32 C its RH is down to 19%.

Mist and fog

Mist and fog are cloud at ground level. According to the Met Office, mist occurs when visibility is between 1000 m and 5000 m and relative humidity is over 93%. In contrast, fog occurs when visibility is below 1000 m. Dense fog occurs when the visibility is below 200 m. Air can hold a certain amount of moisture. Once this level is reached the air is said to be saturated and the vapour turns into

liquid. The amount of vapour that air can hold depends on its temperature warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. For mist and fog to form, condensation nuclei, such as dust and salt, are needed. These are more common in urban areas and coastal areas, so mist and fog are more common there. Fog is common in many areas, for example the North Sea coast of the UK in summer, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, and coastal Peru. Fog is basically a suspension of small water droplets in the lower atmosphere. It occurs when condensation of moist air cools air below its dew point. The most common types are radiation fog and advection fog (Figure 2.7). For fog to occur, condensation must take place near ground level. Condensation can take place in two major ways: Air is cooled. More water is added to the atmosphere The cooling of air as we have seen is quite common (orographic, frontal and convectional uplift). By contrast the addition of moisture to the atmosphere is relatively rare. However, it does occur over warm surfaces such as the Great Lakes in North America or over the Arctic Ocean. Water evaporates from the relatively warm surface and condenses into the cold air above to form fog. Calm high pressure conditions are required to avoid the saturated air being mixed with drier air above. In addition, contact cooling at

Figure 2.7 Fog


Atmosphere and weather

a cold ground surface may produce saturation. As warm moist air passes over a cold surface it is chilled, condensation takes place as the temperature of the air is reduced and the air reaches dew point (temperature at which relative humidity is 100%). When warm air ows over a cold surface, advection fog is formed. For example, air blowing from the North Atlantic Drift blowing over cold surfaces in Devon and Cornwall in the UK will often form a fog. Similarly, near the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, warm air from the Gulf Stream passes over the waters of the Labrador Current. This is 811 C cooler, since it brings with it meltwater from the disintegrating pack-ice further north. This forms dense fog on 70100 days/year. This also occurs 40 days a year at the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, because of warm air moving over the cold offshore currents. With fairly light winds, the fog forms close to the water surface, but with stronger turbulence the condensed layer may be uplifted to form a low stratus sheet. Radiation fog occurs when the ground loses heat at night by long-wave radiation. This occurs during high pressure conditions associated with clear skies. Fog is a major environmental hazard airports may be closed for many days and road transport is hazardous and slow. Freezing fog is particularly problematic. Large economic losses result from fog but the ability to do anything about it is limited. This is because it would require too much energy (and hence cost) to warm up the air or to dry out the air to prevent condensation.


Environmental lapse rate (ELR) Warm air

Upper inversion Cool air

Warm air

Surface inversion

Cool air

Inversion lid

Temperature increase Figure 2.8 Temperature inversion

Dew refers to condensation on a surface. The air is saturated, generally because the temperature of the surface has dropped enough to cause condensation. Occasionally, condensation occurs because more moisture is introduced, for example by a sea breeze, while the temperature remains constant. Dew may be very useful. In the Negev desert it provides much of the annual rainfall. On the other hand, it may cause some areas to become too damp for cultivation, and may cause some soils to be wet and cold.

is a less efficient absorber or conductor of energy, it loses it more slowly than the Earths surface. Consequently, the surface cools more quickly than the air. Some of the energy from the air is re-absorbed by the surface but is quickly emitted again. By the end of the night, the surface is very cold and the layer of air above it is very cold. However, air above this layer is not as cold as it has not been affected by conduction with the surface. It has only cooled as a result of radiation. Thus it is the opposite of what happens in the day. This relative increase in temperature with height in the lower part of the atmosphere is known as a temperature inversion (or radiation- or nocturnalinversion) (Figure 2.8). This happens when there are relatively

Temperature inversions
Maximum solar radiation occurs at noon, but this is not the hottest part of the day. There is a time lag between the ground being heated and it, in turn, heating the air above. The heating takes place as a result of long-wave radiation, conduction, sensible heat transfer and latent heat transfer. During the night the Earths surface loses the energy it has absorbed during the day. The air also loses energy that it has absorbed. Since air

Cold air trapping pollutants Pollutants forming smog No wind Pollutants sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen particles


Figure 2.9 The effects of temperature inversion


2.1 Local energy budgets

calm conditions and little mechanical turbulence from the wind causing the air to mix. As the cold air at the surface is dense, it will tend to stay at the surface. During the longer nights of winter there is even more time for the air near the surface to cool. During calm, high pressure conditions the band of cooled air may extend for a few metres before the warmer air is reached. If the air contains moisture, when the dew point is reached the moisture will condense, releasing latent heat, and off-setting the cooling process. Temperature inversions are important as they inuence air quality. Under high pressure conditions and limited air movement, a temperature inversion will act like a lid on pollutants causing them to remain in the lower atmosphere next to the Earths surface (Figure 2.9). Only when the surface begins to heat up and in turn warms the air above it, will the warm air be able to rise and with it any pollutants that it may contain. Temperature inversions are common in depressions and valleys. Cold air may sink to the bottom of the valley and be replaced by warmer air aloft. In some cases, the inversion can be so intense that frost hollows develop. These can reduce growth of vegetation, so are generally avoided by farmers. Urban areas surrounded by high ground are also vulnerable, such as Mexico City and Los Angeles, as cold air sinks from the mountain down to lower altitudes.

composed of strong positive transfers in July and August, while negative transfers dominate during the rest of the year. With 6.8Wm-2, the latent heat transfer more or less compensates the sensible heat transfer in the annual average. Strong evaporation occurs during the snowmelt period and particularly during the snow-free period in summer and autumn. When the ground is covered by snow, latent heat uxes through sublimation of snow are recorded, but are insignificant for the average surface energy budget.
(a) Summer

L +28 S 0.4

Qh 16

Qe +2.5

C 9

Section 2.1 Activities

Figure 2.8 shows some of the conditions that promote temperature inversions. 1 Dene the term temperature inversion. 2 Explain why temperature inversions occur. 3 Describe the problems associated with temperature inversions.

Qg 5

(b) Winter

Case Study

S 122 L +43

Qh +22.5

Qe +22.5

Annual surface energy budget of an Arctic site Svalbard, Norway

The annual cycle of the surface energy budget at a high-arctic permafrost site on Svalbard shows that during summer, the net short-wave radiation is the dominant energy source (Figure 2.10). In addition, sensible heat transfers and surface absorption in the ground lead to a cooling of the surface. About 15 per cent of the net radiation is used up by the seasonal thawing of the active layer in July and August (the active layer is the layer at the top of the soil that freezes in winter and thaws in summer). During the polar night in winter, the net long-wave radiation is the dominant energy loss channel for the surface, which is mainly compensated by the sensible heat transfer and, to a lesser extent, by the ground heat transfer, which originates from the refreezing of the active layer. The average annual sensible heat transfer of 6.9Wm-2 is

C +22 Qg +12

The area of the arrows is proportional to the relative importance in the energy budget. Arrows pointing away from the surface indicate positive uxes. The ux values are given in Wm2.

Figure 2.10 Energy budgets for Svalbard


Atmosphere and weather

Section 2.1 Activities

1 With reference to Figure 2.10, draw the likely night-time energy budgets for Svalbard in summer and in winter. 2 Figure 2.11 shows rural and urban energy budgets for Washington DC (USA) during daytime and night-time. The gures represent the proportions of the original 100 units of incoming solar radiation dispersed in different directions. a How does the amount of insolation received vary between the rural area and the urban area? b How does the amount of heat lost through evaporation vary between the areas? Justify your answer.
(a) Rural surface 100 Incoming solar radiation Short-wave radiation reected back to space from clouds and ground Heat loss due to evaporation 8 Heat loss by air movement 24 Long-wave radiation from clouds Long-wave radiation from ground 54 1 Long-wave radiation from clouds Long-wave radiation from ground 44 1 Heat loss by air movement

c Explain the difference between the two areas in terms of short-wave radiation reected to the atmosphere. d What are the implications of the answers to b and c for the heating of the ground by conduction? e Compare the amount of heat given up by the rural area and the urban area by night. Suggest two reasons for these differences. f Why is there more long-wave radiation by night from the urban area than from the rural area?

Heat loss due to evaporation

24 35




Heating of the ground by conduction

Heat given up 11 by the ground to the surface


(b) Urban surface 100 Incoming solar radiation Heat loss due to evaporation 1 Long-wave radiation from clouds Heat loss due to evaporation 10 Heat loss by air movement Long-wave radiation from ground 69 1 2 Heat loss by air movement

Short-wave radiation reected back to space from clouds and ground

Long-wave radiation from clouds

Long-wave radiation from ground






Heating of the ground by conduction


Heat given up by the ground to the surface


The gures represent the proportions of the original 100 units of incoming solar radiation dispersed in different directions.
Source: University of Oxford, 1989, Entrance examination for geography

Figure 2.11 Day-time and night-time energy budgets for Washington DC